Absolutely mind blowing and visionary future civilization. Takes many of the consequences of pervasive machines and AI's to astounding conclusions, paAbsolutely mind blowing and visionary future civilization. Takes many of the consequences of pervasive machines and AI's to astounding conclusions, painting a world of intense intricacy....more
Having just finished the first draft of my second novel I did what I always do after a draft: take a little time to consider my craft (and not look atHaving just finished the first draft of my second novel I did what I always do after a draft: take a little time to consider my craft (and not look at the book). So I pulled this puppy off my stack of books on writing. I've read a lot of such books, and this is one of the better ones in it's category.
They fall into a number of broad groups: books on specific components like plot or character, books on sentences, books on editing, books on selling your books, books on summarizing your books, windy pontifications on the nature of creativity, and this type, the bit of everything, with a dose of personal experience thrown in. Lessons is a lot like Lawrence Block's Telling Lies for Fun & Profit. Both cover a bunch of the big areas quickly like plot and structure, and also include the author's personal perspective on his career (Morrell's best known for First Blood, on which the first Rambo was based) and the writing business. It does not focus heavily on sentences or editing.
There were a number of interesting insights. He has a technique for getting past sticky points in your story construction I might try (next time it happens). There were also some interesting technical thoughts on the structure of scenes and chapters. He has a perspective on selecting POV that I hadn't come across, which was interesting. Although he is slightly dated in his opinion of first person stating that he feels it always needs a reason why the narrator is telling the story. This used to be the case, but in the last few years the rise of first person (particularly in YA) was sort of negated this.
A good chunk of the book is about his career, optioning books to Hollywood etc. This was amusing as well. He started in the early 1970s so he's a product of that different era in publishing. The book was written in 2002 and while none of the writing advice is dated, the advent of ebooks and changes in the market are shifting the business side. Still, good writing is still good writing, and even writing style itself doesn't change all that fast. Books I've read by authors whose prime was the 1950s still have plenty to offer. Last weekend I read The Postman Always Rings Twice, published in 1934, and that hardly seems dated.
So if you like books on writing and plan to read many, I'd check Lessons out. While that doesn't sound like spectacular praise, I do like this book. Many writing books I read are total drivel. This one was worth the time, and that says something.
This novel borrows heavily from classics like Starship Troopers and Forever War, but who cares. It's great. A flawlessly breathless read from start toThis novel borrows heavily from classics like Starship Troopers and Forever War, but who cares. It's great. A flawlessly breathless read from start to finish. Basically it's about a normal (for the year 2200) 75 year old man who volunteers to leave the sheltered Earth, gets upgraded, and is thrown into the maelstrom of interstellar alien combat. It's action driven, idea driven, AND character driven. Not that the characters are painted with some kind of world shattering mastery, but they're good, and likable. The atmosphere and action are all great. I also enjoyed seeing aliens again in my Sci-Fi. By that, I mean weird and tentacled out hostile aliens. I like my aliens alien.
There are also a lot of good newer Sci-Fi ideas packed into the book, plus a healthy dose of classic 60's-80's ones that have been nicely updated. I have a few little bones to pick with the author's vision of the future. Particularly on Earth where things seem to have barely changed. Hell, there are even magazines in a waiting room. We won't have magazines 20 years from now. In addition, the alien planets seemed to too often have the coincidental breathable atmosphere. This is common across Sci-Fi but always bugs me. The space marines have combat suits, it could just mention the suit dealing with the issue. And several of the aliens liked to eat humans. Now I liked the gruesome touch, but the reality is that alien biology would be way too different. The odds of them having the same amino acids, salts, etc as life on Earth are astronomical. But as I said, I liked Scalzi's aliens, particularly the weird militant advanced religious nut warrior bugs.
But still, these complaints are just nitpicks. I loved the book. I downloaded the next two sequels already (via Kindle to my iPad). Enough said....more
Doing research for the sequel to my novel I started reading a number of histories of World War I. This is simply put: an amazing single volume historyDoing research for the sequel to my novel I started reading a number of histories of World War I. This is simply put: an amazing single volume history of the war, its causes, and course of events (but not the post-treaty fallout). I've read hundreds (or more) of history books, and as single volume war histories go -- this is excellent. I'd recommend it to anyone who wants to understand the world we live in, because the modern political arena was forged in World War I (far more than WWII). The often autocratic (or at least Imperialist) regiems of Europe were not prepared for what it really meant to bring the full might of post industrial powers into conflict. The last real shakeup of Europe had been a hundred years earlier with the Napoleonic wars, but the 19th century had remade the economies of the world. The clash, cataclysmic in terms of everything, ended the old world order. All of the big old autocratic states collapsed (Prussia, Russia, the Hapsburgs, the Ottomans) and even the winners were left unable to hold onto their empires. Meyer does a great job introducing the players gradually so as to not overburden the story of the war's origins with background. It reads like a taut horror novel -- and that's pretty much what it is....more
This 60 page short story is so up my alley. A story of time travel, set in medievalBaghdad, what could be better? If it were written in a lyrical stylThis 60 page short story is so up my alley. A story of time travel, set in medieval Baghdad, what could be better? If it were written in a lyrical style reminiscent of the Arabian nights! This is a gold and gem encrusted little dagger of a story. Mimicking prose style AND story telling conventions of its chosen era. It manages to demonstrate its time travel device and constraints in a manner so clear even an Abbasid merchant could understand.
It won both the Hugo and Nebula Novellette awards. Good show. Read it. Ali ibn Hammud al-Nasir (the villan from my own novel) commands that you do so. And he's been known to make tea from the ground bones of those who refuse him.
Classic Farmer action at its best. The man has quiet a crazy imagination. This book is so ambitious in its scope (billions of years in the future), yeClassic Farmer action at its best. The man has quiet a crazy imagination. This book is so ambitious in its scope (billions of years in the future), yet so immediate in its action. 100 page fight scene too, awesome....more
This book is rather brilliant, but isn't for everybody. In my review of Lost It (CLICK HERE), I had inquired if anyone knew any YA that was racy, andThis book is rather brilliant, but isn't for everybody. In my review of Lost It (CLICK HERE), I had inquired if anyone knew any YA that was racy, and this was recommended. It's written in a breezy first-person past with a kind of stream-of-consciousness lightweight quality that made me have to look to make sure it wasn't persent tense. The prose is very very good -- fitting the material perfectly.
Skye is a fifteen-year-old growing up in Santa Barbara, and she's basically raising herself. Her mother is a self-help seminar junkie and all-around new age psychotic, her dad (divorced) lives in LA where he directs films and has sex with pretty production assistants. Neither seem to think about her at all. She has a boy friend, sort of, but wants a girlfriend. She drinks and does drugs, but she isn't a bad girl.
Somehow this character rang very true for me, and the voice is intensely personal and likable. Even the hare-brained situations seem very real, and like Less than Zero the substance abuse and self destructive behavior believable. The voice effortlessly shifts with the state of mind -- often altered -- and does a first class job conveying that. For some, this might be a hard book to read, particularly if one were right-wing, but I thoroughly enjoyed it. Bret Easton Ellis's above mentioned masterpiece feels like watching a train wreck. While Girl Walking Backwards doesn't have the terrifying "all rashed and looks dry and I can see that it's been shaved" moment, and is ultimately transcendant.
Finally, his is a book that is very candid about sexuality.
Not only do we have various incidents of masturbation, near sex, and actual sex, but they aren't even the focus. This isn't gratuitous, it's just frank. This isn't about a girl becoming a lesbian, or coming out. It's about a girl trying to find her footing in a world without foundations....more
This is a verylikableteen romance about an Idaho girl's first real relationship and of course... how she lost her virginity. I read this in my continuThis is a very likable teen romance about an Idaho girl's first real relationship and of course... how she lost her virginity. I read this in my continued meandering quest to find out just how edgy and racy YA can actually be. I hope someone points me to another answer, but I'm thinking... not very. If you know anything really edgy, please put it in a comment. Lost It is pretty reminiscent of Judy Blume's Forever (my review HERE), and it's gone backwards in the sexual explicitness department big time. Really there's barely any.
Don't get me wrong. This is a good book, and it stands on its own. It's just not racy. But I really did like the voice. Using the standard first person past you are immediately and tightly drawn into protagonist Tess's head. She's pretty funny too, and not your totally typical teen girl. There is a lot of interior monologue, but it doesn't suffer from the "too much tell" problems that this often entails. Like, for example, the Indy book Switched (my review HERE) I read the previous day. With Lost It, I actually laughed a number of times aloud -- or at least chuckled. Like all these books, the narrator is what drives the whole thing, and the book delivers 100% in that regard.
Many of the other characters are good. The best friend, the boyfriend, and the grandmother all felt unique and real. The parents less so. Tracy doesn't have the effortless ability to make every character totally and completely believable like Judy Blume, but who does? Nevertheless, she gives it the good old college try and the results are very good.
But the tameness bothered me. In our era of hyper shock factor, it would be nice if an honest book like this was a bit more honest and open about its central topic. Sex. Forever certainly has the edge there, and it's more than 35 years old. It's also worth noting that the two books have almost the same cover. I guess publisher marketing departments all think alike. Observe to the right!
I don't know what it is, but at the same time the internet has opened the door to vastly more sexual material than my 70s or 80s brain could have ever conceived, popular media has less and less. But more violence. Somehow this seems pretty twisted -- at least the more violence less love thing.
Anyway, Lost It, is a good book. Refreshing actually because I didn't have to force myself to finish it. It's all character driven, and when well done that's a very good thing....more